Some 12 hours after they were swept 4-0 by the San Antonio Spurs and eliminated Sunday night from the Western Conference semifinals, the Clippers experienced a day for reflection about a successful season despite the pain of being pushed out of the playoffs.
Monday also was a day for the Clippers to discuss the future and how they could sustain what was built during the 2011-12 season.
The two people in charge of running the organization, President Andy Roeser and vice president of basketball operations Neil Olshey, have several key decisions to make.
The easy ones will be to offer Blake Griffin and Chris Paul long-term contract extensions.
The most pressing one will be deciding whether to pick up Coach Vinny Del Negro’s contract option for the 2012-13 season.
The Clippers have 10 days from the end of the season to inform Del Negro of their decision, meaning he will know something by May 31.
“It’s not going to be that long,” Roeser said Monday. “Today is not the day for it. We just finished the series. We have to think about those things and the right thing to do is give yourself a little space. . . . You’ve got to think things through and do the right thing. You finish the series last night, you deal with the players this morning and you sit down and decide what we’re going to do.”
The Clippers had exit interviews with management Monday and talked about playoff shares.
Team owner Donald Sterling will make the final decision on Del Negro’s fate.
The Clippers’ 40-26 regular-season record was the highest winning percentage (60.6%) in franchise history.
Del Negro took them to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time in the 31 years Sterling has owned the team.
“I’ll sit down with Mr. Sterling and we’ll talk,” Del Negro said. “We’ll go from there.”
Under the new NBA collective bargaining agreement, the Clippers can use the “designated player rookie extension” to offer Griffin a maximum five-year extension worth between $75 million and $95 million, and they plan on doing so when they are allowed on July 1. It is expected that Griffin, scheduled to make $7.2 million next season in the final year of his rookie contract, will sign the extension.
“Hearing all the [negative] things that everybody hears about the Clippers, since the time I’ve been here, it hasn’t been that way,” Griffin said. “It’s been positive. That’s something that’s huge for me in my decision. This is a great place to play.”
Paul has already agreed to exercise a contract option that will keep him with the Clippers next season for $17.8 million.
The Clippers can offer him a three-year extension for about $60 million on July 1, or Paul can wait until his contract expires after the 2012-13 season and sign a five-year deal worth almost $90 million. People close to Paul, but not authorized to speak publicly, said the All-Star point guard will wait until his contract expires before making a decision, knowing that the longer deal for more money is more feasible.
When asked if he wanted to be with the Clippers long-term, Paul said, “I hope so. We’ll see. But right now I’m talking about right now. That’s all I can control.”
Said Olshey: “I told Chris this: We want to create a situation where we have seven or eight core guys that are here for the rest of his and Blake’s career. And then tweak here, tweak there.”
Randy Foye, Chauncey Billups, Nick Young, Reggie Evans, Kenyon Martin and Bobby Simmons are free agents.
Mo Williams said he will opt in on the final year of his contract that will pay him $8.5 million next season. Ryan Gomes, who will make $4 million next season, might become an amnesty-waiver casualty.
Olshey was asked if the players want to know about the coaching situation.
“I don’t think they care,” Olshey said. “Players, all they care about is, do you have an opportunity? Is the person here giving you the best chance to win?. . . I don’t think one guy even knows if I have a contract or don’t have a contract. . . . Now if it drags on too long, then it can be a distraction.”
Paul said he’ll leave it up to the front office to make the decision on Del Negro.
“Coach is a great guy,” Paul said. “He had to manage so many different situations. . . . Our coaching staff did an outstanding job with the hand that they were dealt.”